Student Spotlight: Garbanzo Beans’ (They/Them) Unique Journey to WGS and Tri-Iota

by Ashley Rolf

Tri-Iota, the Iowa State Women’s and Gender Studies honor society, has appointed sophomore WGS and linguistics major Garbanzo Beans (they/them/theirs) as president this semester. Like many Women’s and Gender Studies majors and minors, Garbanzo’s path to the program was not exactly direct.

Garbanzo recalls that in 2014, they were in late middle school and consuming a lot of YouTube content, particularly from gaming channels. At this time, “Gamergate,” began, which was, as Garbanzo describes, “cis-het white dudes” telling their audiences that the media and feminists were attempting to strip men of the gamer identity. Garbanzo never harassed any Gamergate targets, but says consuming content that promoted the harassment of women and the queer community embedded misogyny and anti-queerness in their mind.

Garbanzo says many of the white, cis-het YouTubers at the time were getting into Atheism and “selling skepticism and reason.” As a 14 or 15-year-old, Garbanzo recalls subscribing to the notion that minorities were not oppressed as gamers argued, “look how many laws protect them.”

Once Garbanzo reached high school they recall reading Karl Marx. By then Garbanzo says they had shed most of their anti-minority beliefs, but they were still skeptical of feminism and queerness.

“I was performing a lot of mental gymnastics to want working-class liberation but at the same time being anti-women,” said Garbanzo.

During high school many of Garbanzo’s friends were also coming out as lesbian.

“I think them coming out was what stopped me from radicalizing further into a Nazi.”

When Garbanzo arrived at Iowa State they were told they could take ENGL 250 a year early under the condition that they joined the Writing Gender learning community and take WGS 201. Garbanzo said they had no idea what to expect from a gender course because, in their mind, women were already equal.

After moving into a dorm, Garbanzo met their neighbor, who identified as non-binary. Garbanzo’s neighbor explained their identity and what it meant. At this point, Garbanzo realized they too were non-binary. 

“I was like- oh yeah, me too, because this was the first time I had the language to express myself.”

Through WGS 201 discussions, Garbanzo says they began to learn about the oppression marginalized groups do indeed face. But they said WGS 160, Gender Justice, is where it all began to click. Garbanzo recalls being introduced to concepts like Postmodernism and beginning to understand patriarchy as a society that is male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered. They were also struck by Audre Lorde’s discussion of “capitalist patriarchy.” These discussions fascinated Garbanzo.

 “Almost immediately after the first 160 lecture I declared my WGS major.”

 After declaring a WGS major, Garbonzo applied to join Tri-Iota, hoping it would be a way to strive for equality.

 After only a semester of membership in Tri-Iota, Garbanzo assumed the role of president as the former president was graduating and Garbanzo had leadership experience as an Eagle Scout and Hall council member.  

 Garbanzo encourages any other WGS minors or majors to look into joining the society as it may be the “vessel of agitation for equality” they may be searching for.

 For more information about Tri Iota, email Garbanzo at or follow Tri Iota on Twitter @ISUTriIota.